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Just in: Tribunal rejects Atiku, PDP’s application to examine INEC’s server, but…

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The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Appeal Court premises, Monday rejected the application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, requesting permission to access and examine the central server used by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the February 23 presidential election.
In his ruling, the lead jurist amongst the five, Justice Mohammed Garba, upheld the consolidated objections by the three respondents to the petitioners’ application including INEC, Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
However, giving reasons for the unanimous dismissal, the five judges argued that granting the complaints’ application would amount to pre-judging the principle matter that will drive the main trial when the substantive hearing of the petition starts.
Otherwise, judicial analysts who interpreted the context of the ruling averred that somewhere during the course of the substantive matter, the issue of server will come up and at that time, a substantive ruling that will supersede the Monday’s ruling must be made.
A legal expert who pleaded anonymity told Business Hilights that “After taking a deeper look at the ruling today, I believe it only postponed a rainy as it showed that the Tribunal only relied on the mere denial of INEC that it has no server to rule because, “granting the application now (now in capital letters) would amount to deciding the central issue in the petition at the interlocutory stage which will definitely sound pre-judicial.”
Continuing, he said “Recall that the lead judge, Justice Garba even recalled in the ruling that the Supreme Court had on many occasions warned judges to desist from “making observations, comments or pronouncements in its rulings with any likely effect of prejudging the main issue that can be regarded as the issue to be tried in the course of trial.”
The Lagos lawyer further expressed assurance that midway into the substantive matter, chances are that the server issue must play up again, and at that time, the ruling may not be the same thing as today”.
“What am saying on the ruling is that there are clear chances that the server issue must come again. The tribunal only respected the earlier warning from the Supreme Court of the land to play a holding bay,” he added.

As legal fireworks deepen, PREMIUM TIMES had earlier published a report captioned: ‘Server Controversy: Several INEC staff say results transmitted to ‘central server’

The report said unedited:

Several officials who said they were deployed as electoral officers by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 presidential election said they transmitted results electronically to a ‘central server’ through smart card readers.

This they said was done in compliance with the directive given by the commission during a three-day training before the polls.

The 20 officials deployed to various states, who mostly worked as presiding officers, said they were told that there was a “central server in Abuja” where results are collated electronically.

It is not immediately clear on which “central Server” the officials admitted to transmitting results but this has added a new twist to the ongoing confusion trailing INEC’s consistent denial that it used no server for the election.

A manual issued to the electoral officials by INEC for the 2019 election revealed that the “Communicate” icon on the Smart Card Reader should be used to transmit the accreditation data to the central server.

Another handbook for election officials in 2018 was however more précise on how presiding officers should use the card readers for electronic collation and transmission of results.

It said it became necessary to apply technology to transmit data and results from the polling units due to irregularities that take place after the voting process.

“After successfully filling the EC8A result sheet and announcing the result, the presiding officer shall tap the e-collation application on the home screen”, a part of the book read.

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